Arizona State 2011 team preview

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Arizona State Sun Devils
By Matthew Kitchen
 
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict :: Rick Scuteri/US PRESSWIRE
 
Team Vitals
Head Coach Dennis Erickson
Record at Arizona State 25-24 (17-19 Pac-10)
Wins In Last 5 Seasons 4, 10, 5, 4, 6
Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone
Defensive Coordinator Craig Bray
Returning Starters Offense 11, Defense 8
2010 Season 6-6 (4-5 Pac-10)
2010 Final AP Rank Not ranked
2010 Rushing Offense 78 (7)
2010 Passing Offense 15 (2)
2010 Total Offense 29 (5)
2010 Rushing Defense 16 (1)
2010 Passing Defense 62 (8)
2010 Total Defense 57 (5)
 
2011 Schedule
Sept. 1 UC Davis
Sept. 9 Missouri
Sept. 17 at Illinois
Sept. 24 USC
Oct. 1 Oregon State
Oct. 8 at Utah
Oct. 15 at Oregon
Oct. 29 Colorado
Nov. 5 at UCLA
Nov. 12 at Washington State
Nov. 19 Arizona
Nov. 26 Cal
 
ANALYSIS: The slate is front-loaded, with the toughest tests coming in the first seven games, including a possible Pac-12 title game preview at Oregon.
 
Depth Chart
OFFENSE
QB Brock Osweiler Taylor Kelly
RB Cameron Marshall Deantre Lewis
WR Aaron Pflugrad Jamal Miles
WR Kevin Anderson Jarrid Bryant
WR Gerell Robinson Christopher Coyle
WR Mike Willie George Bell
LT Evan Finkenberg Jamil Douglas
LG Mike Marcisz Adam Tello
C Garth Gerhart Kody Koebensky
RG Andrew Sampson Brice Schwab
RT Dan Knapp Aderious Simmons
DEFENSE
DE Junior Onyeali Jamaar Jarrett
DT William Sutton Toa Tuitea
DT Bo Moos Corey Adams
DE James Brooks Greg Smith
LB Shelly Lyons Colin Parker
LB Vontaze Burfict Carl Bradford
LB Brandon Magee Oliver Aaron
CB Deveron Carr Devan Spann
SS Clint Floyd Shane McCullen
FS Eddie Elder Alden Darby
CB Osahon Irabor Ronald Kennedy
SPECIAL TEAMS
K Alex Garoutte Parker Flynn
P Josh Hubner  
R Jamal Miles Kyle Middlebrooks
SCOUTING REPORT
Arizona State players and coaches hear it from fans and pundits every spring: The team could've been great last year, "if only..."

For example, if only the Sun Devils hadn't turned the ball over 23 times last season. If only they hadn't had a game-tying extra point at Wisconsin blocked. If only they hadn't missed a potential game-winning 41-yard field goal at USC. The fact that four of Arizona State's six losses came by a combined nine points has motivated the team. "It showed us all what a fine line it is between being 6-6 and being 10-2," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone says. "It's a play here and there."

While coach Dennis Erickson doesn't dwell on the what-ifs -- "it doesn't make a difference how close the games were ... [we] still only won six" -- the near misses have helped generate an excitement not usually felt around Tempe. The Sun Devils have 19 starters returning, and coinciding with the sense of optimism are redesigned uniforms and a new pitchfork logo on the helmet. The players have adopted the motto It's time, a reference to the fact that Arizona State has never reached a BCS bowl game.

That goal is well within reach. The offense, with all five starting linemen back, is led by arguably the conference's best center, Garth Gerhart. He'll snap to 6-8, 235-pound quarterback Brock Osweiler, who will run the team's pass-heavy spread offense. Osweiler spent the spring improving his accuracy (56.9 percent in 2010), and that could further strengthen the Sun Devils' already potent pass offense. On the ground Arizona State will rely on sophomore Deantre Lewis and junior Cameron Marshall, who combined for 5.5 yards per carry and 13 touchdowns last season.

The defense, which has eight starters back from a unit that ranked fifth in the Pac-10, will have to endure the loss of team leader and all-conference cornerback Omar Bolden, who tore the ACL in his left knee during spring practice. In Bolden's absence, junior middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who made a team-high 90 tackles in 2010, has stepped into the leadership void by running player meetings and setting an example with his commitment at off-season workouts.

"We just need to be consistent ... more disciplined," Erickson says of what his Sun Devils need to do if they hope to vie for the Pac-12 South title. "You just have to get a break and see what happens."

THE BIG IF
Can the Sun Devils' special teams have a bounce-back season and help turn a series of close losses last year into wins this year.

TELLING NUMBER
69.6 -- Penalty yards a game assessed against the Sun Devils in 2010, the most in the Pac-10 and fourth most among BCS schools.

KEY RETURNEES
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Jr. -- The potential All-America has taken on a new leadership role and has worked to cut down on his penalties and mental mistakes. He's a big reason why Arizona State is considered a contender in 2011.

Brandon Magee, LB, Sr. -- Magee started slowly last season but had big games when it mattered, making 13 tackles apiece against Cal, USC and Arizona. Offenses that focus too much on handling Burfict, Magee's high school teammate, may get burned by Magee.

Cameron Marshall, RB, Jr. -- In the team's pass-heavy offense last season, Marshall rushed for 787 yards and nine TDs on 150 carries. He averaged 7.0 yards per rush at home, and that kind of production will be key in home dates against Missouri, USC and Arizona this year.

Deveron Carr, CB, Jr. -- Now the top corner after the season-ending injury to Omar Bolden, Carr has the size (5-11, 193 pounds) and speed (4.34) to battle receivers. He leads a secondary that is the D's biggest weakness.

Brock Osweiler, QB, Jr. -- The 6-8 signal-caller is often mistaken for a Sun Devil basketball player -- and last November he almost became one. But when concussions ended Steven Threet's career Osweiler inherited the starting job, completing 58 percent of his passes down the stretch.

BREAKOUT PLAYER
Gerell Robinson, WR, Sr. -- The 6-4, 222-pound Robinson has great potential but has struggled to meet the expectations that came with being a highly rated recruit. His 2010 stats (29 catches, 387 yards, 5 TDs) were more than '08 and '09 combined, and coach Dennis Erickson believes he and Brock Osweiler could become the Pac-12's top duo.

TOP RECRUIT
Mo Latu, DE, Fr. -- With eight defensive starters coming back, Arizona State won't need much from its freshmen in 2011. But Latu, a four-star prospect from Gilbert, Ariz., has size (6-3, 306), speed and strength (he bench-presses 405 pounds) that could allow him to make an immediate impact.

This team preview originally appeared in Sports Illustrated Presents' Pac-12 Preview.
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